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crepit, the latter, his cheerful companion in youth, has become, as they totter down the hill of life, his natural and constant nurse. If this condition of the parents enabled them to afford small indulgence to the son, the example of conjugal affection, we may hope, will not be lost upon a heart very susceptible of kind impressions. Our author, who is the elder of twins, was born in July, 1793;-the sister, who died immediately after the birth, was, to use his mother's figure of speech, a bouncing girl, while John might have gone into a pint pot;' indicating a delicacy of frame under which he has always laboured. His education necessarily squared with the limited means of his parents. Of the dame, who in every village wields the 'tway birchen twigs' to the terror of the surrounding urchins, he learnt to spell and put two syllables together; and before he was six years old, was able, his mother says, to read a chapter in the Bible. As soon, however, as he was able to lead the fore-horse of the harvest team, he was set to work, and returning one evening from the field thus occupied, had the misfortune of seeing the loader fall from the waggon, and break his neck: this fatal accident threw him into fits, from which he did not recover till after a considerable lapse of time, nor without much anxiety and expense to his parents: even at this day he is not wholly free from apprehensions of their return. At the age of twelve, he assisted in the laborious employment of thrashing; the boy, in his father's own words, was weak but willing, and the good old man made a flail for him somewhat suitable to his strength. When his share of the day's toil was oyer, he eagerly ran to the village school under the belfry, and in this desultory and casual manner gathered his imperfect knowledge of language, and skill in writing. At the early period of which we are speaking, Clare felt the poetic œstrum. He relates, that twice or thrice in the winter weeks it was his office to fetch a bag of flour from the village of Maxey, and darkness often came on before he could return. The state of his nerves corresponded with his slender frame. The tales of terror with which his mother's memory shortened the long nights returned freshly to his fancy the next day, and to beguile the way and dissipate his fears, he used to walk back with his eyes fixed immovably on the ground, revolving in his mind some adventure without a ghost in it,' which he turned into verse; and thus, he adds, he reached the village of Helpstone often before he was aware of his approach.
The fate of Amy' is one of those stories with which every village, more especially every secluded village, abounds; and the pool, from her catastrophe named the haunted pool, is still shewn, while the mound at the head of it attests the place of her inter
ment. We do not propose to institute a very rigid criticism on these poems, but we must not omit to notice the delicacy with which the circumstances of this inartificial tale are suggested, rather than disclosed; indeed it may be remarked generally that, though associating necessarily with the meanest and most uneducated of society, the poet's homeliest stories have nothing of coarseness and vulgarity in their construction. Some of his ballad stanzas rival the native simplicity of Tickel or Mallett.
The flowers the sultry summer kills,
That envied once her charms.
Lost was that sweet simplicity,
So fades the flower before its time,
So droops the bud upon the stem,
For the boisterous sports and amusements which form the usual delight of village youth, Clare had neither strength nor relish; his mother found it necessary to drive him from the chimney corner to exercise and to play, whence he quickly returned, contemplative and silent. His parents-we speak from knowledgewere apprehensive for his mind as well as his health; not knowing how to interpret, or to what cause to refer these habits so opposite to those of other boys of his condition; and when, a few years later, they found him hourly employed in writing,—and writing verses too, the gear was not mended'. in their estimation. When he was fourteen or fifteen,' says Dame Clare, 'he would shew me a piece of paper, printed sometimes on one side, and scrawled all over on the other, and he would say, Mother, this is worth so much; and I used to say to him, Aye, boy, it looks as if it warr!-but I thought he was wasting his time.' Clare's history, for a few succeeding years, is composed in two words, spare diet and hard labour, cheered by visions of fancy which promised him happier days: there is an amusing mixture of earnestness and coquetry in his invocation to Hope,' the deceitful sustainer, time immemorial, of poets and lovers.
The eccentricities of genius, as we gently phrase its most reprehensible excesses, contribute no interest to the biography of Clare. We cannot, however, regret this. Once, it seems, 'visions of glory' crowded on his sight, and, he enlisted at Peterboro' in the local militia. He still speaks of the short period passed in his new character, with evident satisfaction. After a while, he took the bounty for extended service, and marched to Oundle; where, at the conclusion of a bloodless campaign, his corps was disbanded and he was constrained to return to Helpstone, to the dreary abode of poverty and sickness. His novel occupation does not appear to have excited any martial poetry; we need not therefere unsphere the spirit of Plato,' adequately to celebrate the warlike strains of the modern Tyrtæus.
The clouds which had hung so heavily over the youth of Clare, far from dispersing, grew denser and darker as he advanced towards manhood. His father, who had been the constant associate of his labours, became more and more infirm, and he was constrained to toil alone, and far beyond his strength, to obtain a mere subsistence. It was at this cheerless moment, he composed 'What is Life?' in which he has treated a common subject with an earnestness, a solemnity, and an originality deserving of all praise: some of the lines have a terseness of expression and a nervous freedom of versification not unworthy of Drummond, or of Cowley.
And what is Life?-An hour-glass on the run,
A mist, reatreating from the morning sun,
A busy, bustling, still-repeated dream,—
Its length? A minute's pause, a moment's thought.
That in the act of seizing shrinks to nought.
That robs each floweret of its gem,-and dies;
Which stings more keenly through the thin disguise.
A long and lingering sleep, the weary crave.
Then what is Life?-When stripp'd of its disguise,
To teach unthankful mortal how to prize
That the author of such verses (and there are abundance of them) should have continued till the age of twenty-five unfriended and unknown, is less calculated perhaps to excite astonishment, than that devotedness to his art, which could sustain him under the pressure of such evils, and that modesty which shrunk from obtruding his writings on the world. Once, indeed, and once only, he appears to have made an effort to emerge from this cheerless obscurity, by submitting his verses to a neighbour, who, it seems, enjoyed a reputation for knowledge in such matters.' Even here his ill-fortune awaited him; and his muse met not only with discouragement but rebuke. The circumstance is however valuable, since it serves to illustrate the natural gentleness of the poet's disposition. Instead of venting his spleen against this rustic Aristarch, he only cleaves to his favourite with greater fondness.
'Still must my rudeness pluck the flower
Still will I love thee, Poesy.'-p. 124.
Though need make many poets,' it was not need that excited Clare to write poetry, though its importunity finally drove him 'to trust his little bark to the waves.' Without a shilling in his pocket, with a father and mother aged and decrepit at home, who rather required his aid than contributed to alleviate his condition, with a frame so feeble by nature, as to sink under the toil to which he had all his life submitted, he at length-and on the impulse of the moment-bethought himself of endeavouring to obtain some small advantage from those mental labours which had at various seasons so deeply engaged his mind. working alone in the lime-pits, at Ryhall, in the dead of winter, 1818,' these are his own words, when knowing it impossible for me to pay a shoemaker's bill of more than three pounds, having only eighteen-pence to receive at night, I resolved upon publishing proposals for printing a little volume of poems by subscription; and at dinner-time I wrote a prospectus, with a pencil,
and walked over to Stamford at night, to send it by the post to Mr. Hanson, a printer at Market Deeping.' Mr. Hanson had seen some of these poems in manuscript; and it is due to him to say that he was the first who expressed a favourable opinion of their merits, and thus induced Clare to venture upon this formidable measure. This prospectus was accordingly published, together with the following Address,' which we give as a sort of literary curiosity.
The Public are requested to observe, that the TRIFLES humbly offered for their candid perusal, can lay no claim to eloquence of poetical composition, (whoever thinks so will be deceived,) the greater part of them being juvenile productions, and those of a later date offsprings of those leisure intervals which the short remittance from hard and manual labour sparingly afforded to compose them. It is hoped that the humble situation which distinguishes their author will be some excuse in their favour, and serve to make an atonement for the many inaccuracies and imperfections that will be found in them. The least touch from the iron hand of criticism is able to crush them to nothing. May they be allowed to live their little day, and give satisfaction to those who may chuse to honour them with a perusal, they will gain the end for which they were designed, and their author's wishes will be gratified.'
Booksellers, whether metropolitan or provincial, are, it has been said, rarely deficient in shrewdness. The proposals fell into the hands of one of the fraternity in Stamford, and suggested to him the probability of the publication affording a profitable speculation. No time was lost in visiting Helpstone; and, for the immediate deposit of a few pounds to meet his present need, and the expectation of receiving a few more at a distant period, Clare was content to abandon his subscription and to part from the volume before us. The original chapman soon transferred his bargain to the actual publishers, by whom the poems have been given to the world in a manner creditable to themselves, and liberal, we have reason to believe, as to the author.
Looking back upon what we have written, we find we have not accomplished our intention of interspersing with our narrative such extracts as might convey a general character of Clare's poetry, we have used only such as assorted with the accidents of the poet's life, and the tone of them has necessarily been somewhat gloomy. The volume, however, offers abundant proofs of the author's possessing a cheerful disposition, a mind delighting in the charms of natural scenery, and a heart not to be subdued by the frowns of fortune; though the advantages which he might have derived from these endowments have been checked by the sad realities which hourly reminded him of his unpromising con